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Liberals hope to fast-track new ‘extreme intoxication’ bill before House adjourns

‘Being drunk or stoned is no defense to committing criminal acts like sexual assault’: Justice Minister David Lametti

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OTTAWA — The Liberals hope to fast-track their new bill to eliminate “extreme self-induced intoxication” as a legal defense for violent crimes before Parliament adjourns for the summer.

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Justice Minister David Lametti said he was responding to “a lot of misinformation” surrounding the recent Supreme Court ruling that left many wondering if they could get away with violent crimes, such as sexual assault, under the influence of large amounts of drugs or alcohol.

“Being drunk or stoned is no defense for committing criminal acts like sexual assault,” Lametti said, after tabling Bill C-28 in the House of Commons on Friday. “It was the law before the Supreme Court decision and it remains the law today.”

“All Canadians need to understand this clearly,” he added.

The new legislation would amend the Criminal Code so that individuals would be held criminally responsible for violent crimes they committed while in an extreme state of intoxication with drugs or alcohol or both – if they found themselves in this condition through their own criminal negligence.

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  1. Federal Justice Minister David Lametti.

    Lametti to Address Controversial Supreme Court Ruling on ‘Extreme Intoxication’ in Criminal Code Amendment

  2. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that

    Colby Cosh: Supreme Court follows science (uh, oh) in ‘automatism’ ruling

  3. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that self-induced extreme intoxication is a valid defense in violent crime cases.

    Supreme Court of Canada Says Extreme Intoxication is a Valid Defense in Murder and Sexual Assault

Justice Canada specifies that negligence, in this specific context, “means that a person did not take sufficient precautions to avoid a reasonably foreseeable risk of violent loss of control”.

The particular circumstances of the case would be taken into account in the analysis, such as the substance itself and the quantity consumed, the person’s state of mind at the time and anything else they might have to mitigate such risk.

“Extreme intoxication” is defined in the bill as intoxication that renders a person unconscious or unable to consciously control their behavior.

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It is not a presumptive defence, meaning the test would only apply if a defendant specifically raises it.

It only happened a handful of times, Lametti said, pointing out that the “extreme intoxication” defense is rare.

This would not apply in the vast majority of cases where drugs or alcohol are involved – and “almost never” in situations where only alcohol was consumed.

“It’s not about being really drunk or really stoned,” he said, repeating repeatedly, “Being drunk or stoned is no defense for committing criminal acts like sexual assault. “

The bill was applauded by Pam Hrick, executive director of the Women’s Legal Education & Action Fund, who said the government had offered “a thoughtful, nuanced and constitutional response” to the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision last month. .

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“If passed by Parliament, we will look to the courts to apply this new, narrower bar to the defense of self-induced extreme intoxication in an equally thoughtful way,” she said.

The National Association of Women and the Law was not so impressed with C-28.

“While we commend the government for taking action to respond to a decision dangerous to women, it is disappointing that the government has chosen the path of least resistance in responding to the Supreme Court’s ruling,” said Kerri Froc, NAWL President.

Froc said the proposed changes “increased the burden on the Crown” to demonstrate both that it was “reasonably foreseeable” that the intoxicants taken by the defendant would result in extreme intoxication and that they would lead to harm to another person.

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She said there is no distinction in the amendment that would prevent the defense from being used in cases where a defendant consumed alcohol alone.

A Justice Canada official, speaking on the merits, said the bill operates alongside the common law, making it clear that alcohol alone cannot create a circumstance of extreme intoxication and trigger this defense. specific.

The bill was introduced in response to a Supreme Court ruling that found unconstitutional a section of the Criminal Code that barred the use of the defense of extreme intoxication for the most violent crimes.

Lametti, who had promised to act quickly to address the “vacuum” created by the shutdown, said he had discussions with other parties and with members of the Senate to inform them that a bill was coming, and said he was “optimistic” about it. would be adopted next week.

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“We hope that, given the widespread support from all parts of Canadian society and, frankly, from all benches of Parliament, both in the House and in the Senate, we can act on this fairly quickly,” added Lametti, without saying how it would pass so quickly.

NDP Justice Critic Randall Garrison said in a statement that the NDP will push for the bill to pass quickly.

The Conservatives say they are still reviewing the law.

The article the court struck down was added by Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government in 1995, in response to a 1994 Supreme Court ruling that acquitted a man of sexual assault because he was black drunk at the time. of the offence.

National Post, with additional reporting from The Canadian Press

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